Millennium Bulk Terminals’ plan to build a $680 million coal terminal in Longview was dealt another blow Friday when the state Shoreline Hearings Board upheld the denial of two key permits.
In a summary judgment, the board agreed with the state Department of Ecology and conservation groups that the environmental review’s findings that the project would cause adverse ecological impacts is a valid basis for denying the permits.
Millennium and Cowlitz County had appealed the permit denials last November after a county hearings examiner determined the company could not mitigate for 10 unavoidable adverse environmental impacts related to the project.
Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon cited the same adverse impacts in denying a water quality permit in September, including damage to fish habitat from vessel traffic and air quality near railroad tracks carrying coal trains.
Millennium argued in its appeal that the hearing examiner erred in his decision by considering the entire project instead of only its first stage.
The company also asserted the examiner failed to review permit applications for consistency with state and county code, misapplied the State Environmental Protection Act, and wrongly concluded the permits could be denied because a number of necessary project authorizations from other state agencies were outstanding.
Millennium later filed a motion asking the board to send the case back to county jurisdiction.
Ecology argued that the hearings examiner exercised appropriate authority under state and county environmental protection laws.
The hearings board ultimately sided with Ecology and a coalition of environmental groups on seven different points.
“Millennium would cause a host of harms to our air, water, fish, and health, and the Shorelines Hearings Board upheld the decision that these impacts were simply too great under Washington and Cowlitz County laws,” Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney representing the conservation groups, said in a statement to The Daily News.
Millennium said it disagreed with the board’s assessment.
“Our coal export terminal meets the standards required by the Cowlitz County Shoreline Master Program,” Millennium President and CEO Bill Chapman said Friday in a statement to The Daily News. “That is the criteria for which to base our shoreline permit, but it was not used by the hearing examiner.”
Chapman said the company will fill a timely appeal.
Millennium has 30 days to appeal the board’s decision to either Cowlitz County Superior Court or Thurston County Superior Court.
If the company appeals the decision in Cowlitz, the case would likely be heard by Judge Stephen Warning.
In December, Warning sided with Millennium in its appeal of the state Department of Natural Resource’s denial of an aquatic lands sublease needed for the project. Warning gave DNR 60 days to approve the sublease or explain its reasons for rejecting it.
DNR appealed that decision, which is set to be heard by the state Pollution Control Board in late September.
The project has encountered stiff resistance from environmental groups since it was first proposed seven years ago. Millennium has also suffered a string of setbacks since a final environmental review was published last summer.